How To Shop For Fall On A Budget

That long-anticipated day has finally come and gone. Your kids looked sharp and neat sporting spiffy backpacks and dressed in their spanking new back-to-school clothing. You watched them board that bus and waved them off from your perch at the bus stop until your arm hurt.

Then you breathed a great sigh of relief, grateful that the busy back-to-school shopping season is behind you.

Unfortunately, though, the fun is just beginning!

While your child may be outfitted for the new school year, you might need some warmer autumn clothing for yourself. And of course, if the leaves are starting to change colors, it can only mean that winter isn’t far behind. That brings with it a whole slew of wardrobe necessities and accessories you’ll need to purchase, both for yourself and the rest of your family.

If the dollar signs dancing before your eyes are starting to look frighteningly large, you can relax! As always, UCCU is here to help you navigate this potentially expensive task and show you creative ways to save, even as you bundle up your family for the fall and winter seasons.

Read on for six timely money-saving tips this shopping season.

1.) Layer up

Don’t pack away your summer clothing just yet! The temperatures may be dropping, but you can still find many uses for those tank tops and summer dresses; save them for layering up in colder weather. You can stick a long-sleeved T-shirt under a dress and add leggings and boots to make it warmer. If you’re a genuine fashion guru and will wear any trend, you can even wear shorts in the winter and stick a pair of leggings or warm tights underneath.

2.) Take inventory

You check your pantry before heading to the supermarket; shouldn’t you also take stock of your closets before hitting the mall? This is especially important when shopping for a new season. It’s easy to forget pieces you’ve got hidden in the back of your closet or buried deep in a drawer from last winter. Take a careful inventory of what each family member has and what they still need and write it down. This way, you won’t come home to find that you already have what you’ve purchased.

3.) Shop the sales

Fall has a few observed holidays that bring awesome sales – so take advantage! There’s Columbus Day, Veterans Day and then the markdown day of the year, Black Friday. There’s also Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. It’s worth waiting for the next holiday to buy what you need. You’ll save a lot just by being patient!

4.) Shop online – without paying shipping

Online shopping can be significantly cheaper than retail stores – until you need to chalk up $6.99 for shipping, that is.

Beat the system by looking for free shipping on sites like Freeshipping.com, or by taking advantage of the free in-store pickup available at many retailers. Many stores also offer coupons to first-time online shoppers. If you’ve already shopped a store online, you can sign in using another email address and still snag the deal.

Even if you prefer live shopping and like to try on your clothing before you buy, it pays to check out a store’s online inventory before going to the brick and mortar shop. This way, you’ll know what they have and what you like instead of wasting time browsing racks and finding the perfect top with the perfect price several hours later.

5.) Time it right

There’s a season for every purchase. If you wait until a specific item goes on sale, you’ll save big. For example, jeans always get marked down in October and last winter’s boots will show up on the sales racks at the end of September. It’s worth it to wait until these times to buy these items.

Also, winter coats hit the sales racks as soon as Christmas is over. Depending on the climate in your area, you may be able to hold off on buying a coat until after the holidays to await a super deal. Alternatively, if your old coat is in fairly good condition but you’d like a more updated look, consider making do with last year’s coat for now, and buying a new one when they go on sale.

6.) Shop the overstock

Stores that specialize in deeply discounted merchandise, like DSW, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls, can be a terrific source for name brand clothing at generic prices. You may have to sift through rows of racks until you land a real bargain, but it’ll be well worth your time. These stores are especially beneficial for stocking up on basics.

On a similar note, be sure to check out secondhand stores and sites like Overstock.com for incredible deals on stuff you need.

Don’t break the budget this shopping season. With a bit of planning and strategic shopping, you can outfit your family for warmer weather.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to save money when shopping for clothing? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://welcometothefamilytable.com/8-ways-to-stock-up-on-winter-clothing/

http://tiphero.com/how-to-save-money-on-winter-clothing/

https://money.usnews.comm/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-frugal-ways-to-save-this-fall

Share Button

7 Common Life Insurance Myths Debunked

Having sufficient life insurance is important. And yet, so many of us buy into popular misconceptions, convincing ourselves we don’t need to bother purchasing a policy.

But don’t be fooled. Read on to see how seven of the most widespread life insurance myths are easily debunked.

Myth #1: I’m single and I have no dependents. There’s no reason for me to get life insurance.

Actually, there is good reason for you to have life insurance as a single person. First, every person should have enough funds to cover their funeral costs and end-of-life medical bills. You don’t want to leave your family or executor with a legacy of debt and unpaid bills. Second, purchasing a life insurance policy is the best way to be remembered for your generosity. You can choose your favorite cause to be the beneficiary of your death payout, helping improve the lives of others after you’re gone.

Myth #2: I’m a stay-at-home parent who doesn’t earn an income. My partner needs life insurance; I don’t.

Unless you sit at home twiddling your thumbs all day, the tasks that fill your time will need to be outsourced to hired help if you suddenly pass on. Your better half may need to pay for cleaning help, a cook or a nanny – or maybe all three! All that costs money, and that money can come from the insurance payout from a homemaker’s policy.

Life insurance policies protect families.

Myth #3: Why would I waste my money on an insurance policy when I can invest that same money and earn higher returns?

Are you sitting on millions? Unless you can honestly answer that with a “yes,” you’re better off putting your money somewhere safe with a guaranteed payout – like a life insurance policy. Investments are never 100% safe, and you don’t want to leave your dependents with an iffy source of funds. The only exception to this rule is for the truly wealthy who have more than $1 million in liquid assets and have their funeral costs and medical bills covered. For the rest of us mere mortals, though, life insurance is the way to go.

Myth #4: Life insurance is too expensive. I can’t afford it!

The idea that that life insurance is too expensive is just hogwash. A recent Life Happens study revealed that 80% of uninsured people who claimed life insurance was too expensive had overestimated its cost. A 20-year level term policy for a healthy 30-year-old usually falls in the ballpark of $150 a year. That’s peanuts compared to the benefits of having life insurance and the security of knowing your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone.

Myth #5: I’m too young to worry about life insurance.

Actually, there’s no better time to purchase a life insurance policy than when you’re young and hearty. The premiums are far less expensive for those under age 35, and most people in that stage of life do not have sizable assets to pass on to their dependents. The longer you wait to buy a policy, the bigger chance you have of developing a medical condition that will significantly raise your monthly premiums. Most importantly, dependents of the 25-35 age group will definitely be too young to be financially independent and will need the death payouts for basic survival.

Myth #6: My children are independent adults. Why would I need life insurance?

There’s an old bit of advice claiming that parents of adult children should keep their mouths shut and their purse strings open. It always feels good to provide for your children, regardless of their stage of life. Leaving your dependents with an inheritance that helps them purchase a home, start a business or even put some money away for a rainy day will keep you in their thoughts long after you’re gone.

Also, you don’t want to burden your children with funeral expenses and medical bills when they’re grieving. Just the cost of a funeral and burial can top $8,000! It’s always best to have these expenses covered before it’s too late.

Myth #7: My job offers a life insurance policy for all employees. If I leave my job, I can always take the policy with me.

Unfortunately, this is false. Most employer-offered life insurance policies are not portable. If you leave your job, for whatever reason, you’ll also be leaving your life insurance plan. No one can predict the future, and there’s no way to know you’ll remain at your current workplace forever. That’s why it’s best to purchase a separate life insurance policy, even when your employer provides you with one. Plus, buying your own policy will allow you to choose one that best suits your needs.

It’s never fun to think about what will happen after we’re gone. Taking the time to plan for end-of-life expenses, though, and leaving loved ones with enough to live on when we’ve passed, is the responsible thing to do. Don’t let a life insurance myth keep you from buying a policy!

Your Turn: Which of the above myths did you always believe to be true? Can you identify any others? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

Share Button

Book Review: The Recovering Spender by Lauren Greutman

For far too many people, being rudely awakened from the American Dream is synonymous with being mired in debt.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

In The Recovering Spender, Lauren Greutman draws on her own life experience to teach invaluable lessons about living within your means.

To outsiders, Lauren and her husband, Mark, appeared as though they were living a charmed life. As she says, “On the surface, we had it all. Custom home, luxury cars, beautiful babies, and all the bells and whistles…” But disaster lurked beneath the surface.

Though the Greutmans seemed like they had more than enough for all their necessities and many luxuries, they were living way beyond their means simply to keep up with the neighbors. Too soon, they found themselves with a mortgage that had not been paid in months, their car seized and sky-high debt that reached $40,000.

Their dream had become an awful nightmare.

Through a long journey of recreating their relationship with money and spending, the Greutmans arrived at where they are today: back in the black and fully committed to spending less while living within their budget.

In The Recovering Spender, Greutman details the steps she and her family took to pull it off. She shares her hard-earned tips and practical advice to help others who find themselves ending each month with a deficit that keeps growing.

Lauren also shares many of her personal struggles in ways relatable to readers to help them learn from her mistakes. It’s easier for an over-stressed mom who never feels like she can stretch the dollar far enough to take tips from another mom who’s been there, than it is to heed advice from a financial expert who’s never experienced anxiety about being able to pay for groceries.

The book also takes readers through the process of going from being in the red to living completely debt-free, offering a step-by-step guide with actions readers can take immediately as they work their way through the book.

Some of the actionable chapters in the book include:

1. Take an Inventory of Your Spending.

2. Declutter Your Finances.

3. Do an Expense Audit.

4. Curb Your Spending and Define Your Values.

Most importantly, The Recovered Spender is a guide for getting off the path of debt, and living happily within your means.

Your Turn: Do you overspend in order to keep up with the Joneses? Have you successfully changed your spending habits? Share your success with us!

Share Button

Can Frugal Living Make You Happier Than Lavish Living?

Do you believe money is the key to happiness?

Somewhere deep inside, we all know that money cannot buy happiness. Many people overspend and rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt to live a lifestyle they believe will make them happy, only to discover they are living beyond their means. This, in turn, adds stress and worry … causing unhappiness. Believe it or not, living frugally can actually make you happier than living lavishly.

Living a frugal lifestyle isn’t necessarily about pinching pennies and denying yourself things you want. It’s about making your life easier and worrying less about money.

If you’ve decided it’s time to start living more frugally, ask yourself why you want to do it and establish a goal. Without a reason to change your spending habits and a goal to work toward, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. Maybe you’d like to retire early, or travel the world or buy your dream home. Maybe you’d like to work less and spend more time with your family. Whatever your reason, write it down. Place reminders of your goal where you’ll see them often.

Once you’ve started your new frugal lifestyle, you may be pleasantly surprised at your newfound happiness. Below are some benefits of living the frugal lifestyle that can lead to more happiness and better money management.

  • You’ll learn to appreciate what you have. You’ll become thankful for your resources and learn to make the most of them. Rather than throwing away old items, you learn to repurpose them and let little go to waste.
  • You’ll tend to choose experiences over objects. Rather than going to the mall and purchasing a new outfit or the newest video games, you’re more apt to go for hike, to the lake, or play board games with friends or family. These experiences provide memories and happiness that can last a lifetime. Conversely, that new outfit or video game will provide only temporary happiness.
  • You’ll start to notice your debt diminishing. The burden of debt often ties people to jobs and locations that they hate because they feel they have no other choice. Once your debt disappears, you’ll have the freedom to choose a profession and location that makes you happy.
  • You will have more leisure time. Once you’re able to pay down debt, you won’t need to work as many hours to make ends meet. This will give you more free time to spend on hobbies and other leisurely pursuits.
  • Living frugally may put you on the path to early retirement. Rather than spending your golden years working, you could be gardening, traveling, enjoying your grandchildren or any number of more pleasurable things. Being able to put more funds away for retirement will help you reach a financially comfortable level long before many of your colleagues.
  • You might find joy in helping others. By reducing your own expenses and saving money, you are able to give more to others and support social causes that are important to you.

Now, you may be thinking – the frugal lifestyle doesn’t sound all that bad, but how do I get started? The key is to start small. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, how much money you’ll need to achieve it, and formulate a plan. Figure out expenses you can live without. Instead of buying breakfast on-the-go at a drive-thru in the morning, cook your breakfast at home. Brown bag your lunch rather than eating out. Make a weekly meal plan and cook your meals at home. These items alone can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a month.

If you’re paying down multiple credit cards, look into consolidating them into one loan or to a single, lower-interest credit card. This can give you significant savings on interest charges. Check out UCCU’s low-rate credit card options and apply at www.uccu.com/visa. Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, keep your your oldest credit card, but use it infrequently and close all others. Keeping your oldest card open may positively impact your credit score. Leaving the others open, though, may lead to a temptation to use them again, thus defeating the purpose of paying them off.

Learn to stretch your money as far as you can. When purchasing groceries, clip coupons and look for sales. When purchasing clothes or other non-grocery items, check thrift stores, yard sales and clearance racks for the best possible deals.

Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Are you paying a huge bill for cable TV? Could you live without it? Many people pay a large cable bill and only watch a handful of channels. Check to see if there is a cheaper package available. Is your electric bill higher than it should be? Try hanging your clothes outside to dry rather than using your clothes dryer whenever possible. Also, washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot will save your hot water heater from working as hard – and your clothes will still get cleaned. Another good habit to get into is unplugging electronic devices when you’re not using them.

Give frugal living a try! You have nothing to lose but debt and can gain some unexpected happiness along the way.

Your Turn: Does saving money make you happy? How do you save – and enjoy the process? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

Share Button

AroundMe: Local Attractions With Just One Click

Looking for a great new restaurant near your home? Traveling and wondering what attractions are nearby?

Look no further! The free AroundMe app is here to take the stress out of your search. With a cleaner and clearer interface than other attraction search engines, like Google Maps and Apple Maps, the app makes finding local hotspots easy.

In the app’s home screen, you’ll be asked if you want to use your current location. By clicking “yes,” you’ll unlock the app’s real power. You can now search for local attractions wherever you’re located.

Next, you’ll find a large menu of nearby spots you might need, from pizza shops and park-and-rides to museums and movie theaters. Tap the category you’re looking for, and the app will bring up a list of local places matching your choice. You’ll also be shown where these locations can be found on a map. If you choose one of these options, the app will pull up details for you, including a phone number, street address, reviews and hours of operation. Another tap will bring you to the business’s Google Details page.

You can take your search up a level by tapping on the eye icon toward the top of the app’s screen and then holding up your iPhone or iPad 2. You’ll be shown a virtual view of the location of nearby attractions. This will help you see exactly how far you are from each place.

You can use the AroundMe app to search for a wide range of local spots, including the most often searched-for options, like restaurants, movie theaters and gas stations, and the less-searched for places, like hospitals and pharmacies. Whatever you need – it’s there!

Critics of the app complain that banner ads can block up to 25% of the screen. While ads are built into most apps, Aroundme is designed for use on the road, making the ads really intrusive. There is an option to upgrade to an ad-free version, but it’ll cost you $2.99 a month. For that price, you can find something even more user-friendly in the AppStore.

Other unhappy users claim that star icon doesn’t save a location’s info as would be expected; it only saves the number in your contacts. Still, more critics say the app doesn’t offer enough improvement over Google Maps or AppleMaps to make it worthwhile to install.

Try the app to judge for yourself. It can make attraction-searching simpler and fun!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite way to look for local hotspots? Share your best search app with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

Share Button

Dealing With A Financial Setback

Financial setbacks come in all shapes and sizes. It can be an expensive household repair or major car trouble. It may be increases in your insurance plus a rent hike taking effect at the same time. Or, it can be something more extreme, like getting a pay cut at work- or even being given a pink slip. It may be a medical emergency that isn’t covered by insurance, or some good news that will cost you a bundle, like a wedding or the birth of a baby.

It’s impossible to plan for every financial hit you will take in your lifetime.

The question is: What are you going to do about it?

You could ignore it, and keep borrowing or charging to pay for daily expenses when your income is swallowed up by the surprise. By going that route, you’ll be paying a lot more than you should for this setback because of accumulated interest. But you have options–there are proactive steps you can take. So, if you’re hit with hard times, keep these tips in mind:

1.) Don’t panic

Panic is the first reaction many people have when experiencing a financial setback. It won’t be easy, but do your best to keep your cool. Keeping calm will allow you to think more clearly and resolve your deficit quicker. Remember, as difficult as things seem, they’ll always look a little better after some levelheaded planning.

2.) Crunch the numbers

I’ll disappear if you just ignore me and pretend I don’t exist, said no problem – ever. That’s because problems won’t disappear when they’re ignored, especially not money problems. If anything, they snowball into a mountain of financial issues you really don’t want. So, difficult as it might be, sit down and figure out exactly how much more money you’ll need in order to cover your new expense, or to fill the gap of an income loss.

3.) Keep the money coming in

When you’re dealing with a financial setback, you’re looking at less money than you need to get you through the month. The only way to stretch what you have to fit your needs is to earn more or to spend less. Since tightening your budget is almost always stressful, try to find ways to add to your income first. If possible, put in more hours at work or seek extra projects, even if it means working nights and/or weekends. Consider freelancing or consulting if you can. Take a side job for some extra cash. Do whatever it takes to bring in a little more money to cover the additional expenses.

If you’ve been laid off or your hours have been cut, it’s OK to work at a job that is below your skill level until you find something more permanent. There’s no shame in earning an honest living.

4.) Trim your spending

Now, it’s time to see which expenses you can trim. Before cutting your budget in half, though, take the time to prioritize. List all the expenses you cannot do without and the ones that would be irresponsible to neglect. Don’t skip mortgage payments or neglect your insurance premiums because you’re short a few hundred dollars. Instead, take an honest look at your remaining expenses and see where you can cut back.

If you’re careful, you may be able to cut your grocery bill in half. Trim spontaneous purchases by only using cash – and keep a minimal amount on you at all times. If you’re a two-car family, consider scaling back to one car for now. Push off your vacation plans until things start looking up. Do whatever you can to come up with the extra cash.

5.) Contact your creditors

If you absolutely cannot make some of your minimum monthly payments anymore, contact your creditors before they come calling on you. It’s always best to be up front about your financial situation. Most creditors will be happy to work out a reasonable payment plan with you.

6.) Reach out to family and friends

The people who care about us most are the ones who can get us through anything. Don’t be embarrassed to tell your family and friends what’s going on. They’ll support you and encourage you until you get back on your feet, and they may even be able to help you out with employment opportunities or helpful contacts.

7.) Be proactive

Hindsight is always 20/20. Harness the urgency you feel now to get into the habit of building up an emergency fund. As soon as you’re back on your feet, start putting away money that can be pulled out in future setbacks. Experts recommend that you have 3-6 months worth of living expenses saved up in case you can’t work for any reason. Knowing you have that money to fall back on will take the stress out of these situations.

Do you need help recovering from a financial crisis? Call, click, or stop by a UCCU branch today for help with money management and ending the debt cycle.

Your Turn: How have you maintained your equilibrium during a financial setback? Share your best tips and advice with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

Share Button

Finding The Perfect College Job

Whether you’re working to pay off your student loan, start saving for the future or just to have some extra cash in your pocket, finding the perfect college job that won’t get in the way of your studies can be challenging.

No worries, though; we’re here to help! We’ve compiled this handy guide that will help you go from hopeful to hired – at that perfect position.

Most of your likely college job options will fall into one of three categories:

1.) On-campus jobs

The obvious benefit to working on campus is having your workplace just steps away from your dorm. And there are lots of employment opportunities on campus.

It you’re a math whiz or a history buff, you can tutor struggling students. Hang up flyers announcing your services or advertise online. You may be able to tutor via Skype or Facetime.

You can also represent a brand by promoting its products and handing out free samples. This is a terrific option if you’re working towards a career in marketing, sales, or social media.

If you’d like to gain valuable experience while broadening your knowledge in a subject, you can conduct research on behalf of your professors. As a bonus, you’ll also earn a future recommendation for employment opportunities.

2.) Local jobs

If you need a little breather from college life, look into any number of local jobs. College towns are usually full of fast food joints, local restaurants, and malls. Check sites like Craigslist or KSL Jobs and look through the help-wanted ads to find openings.

These jobs are great if you like social interaction and a fast-paced environment. Even within this narrow category, you can still find a job that fits your specific skill set and interests.

For instance, if you’re a fashionista, consider working in a clothing boutique. If you’re looking for a career in the food industry, search for openings at local restaurants or catering businesses. Working the front desk at a local gym might be the perfect job for you if you’re into fitness. Whatever your personality, you can find something that fits.

3.) Online jobs

If you want to stay put but don’t want a job that involves class work, you might want to consider an online position. The sky’s the limit with today’s mobile workplace. You can write, edit or evaluate content for businesses. You can manage social media accounts. Find companies looking for blog posts on any number of topics by searching Squidoo, Hubpages, and About.com. Offer your services in a variety of categories on sites like Fiverr to build up your reputation – and your pay grade.

Before you get started on your hunt, hold up any job you’re considering to these questions: Is the pay worth the time and effort? Is the schedule compatible with your studies? Does it leave any room for a social life? Is the position in any way related to your field of choice? It’s best if your job of choice fits most, if not all, of these criteria.

It only takes a bit of planning to find the perfect college job!

Your Turn: Did you find the ideal college job? Share your choice with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
Share Button

Is It Worth Traveling To See The Solar Eclipse?

On Aug. 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will occur across the continental United States for the first time in 38 years. There next U.S. eclipse won’t happen until April 8, 2024, so this is an exciting event. It occurs when the moon blocks the sun, turning daylight into night and leaving the sun’s atmosphere momentarily visible.

The path of totality will be relatively thin, and will sweep across portions of 14 U.S. states: Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. However, every state will get at least a partial eclipse. To view the total solar eclipse, you must be in the path of totality.

So you may be wondering … is it worth traveling to view the total solar eclipse?

According to Keith Spencer, editor-in-chief of The Bold Italic, a total solar eclipse is worth any effort it takes to witness it. NASA has information regarding locations for watching the total eclipse at https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

The roughly 70-mile-wide path of totality enters the U.S. in Salem, Oregon and will continue through 13 more states before exiting the country in South Carolina. If you don’t live in one of these states, consider traveling to see the total eclipse. Because eclipse enthusiasts from around the world are expected to travel to the U.S. joining millions of Americans to catch a glimpse of this natural phenomenon, finding accommodations may be tough. It’s best to pinpoint a location you would like to travel to in the path of totality, and start making arrangements as soon as possible. If that means more than a day’s trip for you, it may be less expensive to plan your stay in a location that’s a day-trip away from the path of totality and travel to view the eclipse on the day of the event.

There are hundreds of locations throughout the U.S. offering special eclipse-watching events. Many of these events include camping/lodging, music, food, and are festival-like in nature. Google “eclipse events” to bring up hundreds of event options to choose from. If you think you may be interested in attending one, start calling for availability immediately, as lots of these events have already sold out.

You don’t need to attend a special event to enjoy the splendor of the eclipse, though. You can just hop into the car with your family, and drive off to enjoy the eclipse on a beach, at a park, or even at the home of a friend or relative who lives in the path of the total eclipse.

If you really want to see the eclipse but have been pushing it off because a vacation simply isn’t in the budget this year, check out our vacation loans!

SOURCES:
Share Button

Credit Cards or Debit Cards – What’s the Smartest Swipe?

Most people own at least one debit card and at least one credit card. They know they have them, but they may not know about all the differences that exist between using a credit card and a debit card.

Believe it or not, there are many. The most basic difference is the fact that each time you use a credit card, you’re borrowing money. A debit card, on the other hand, simply transfers your own money from your checking account to the vendor you’re paying.

When you use your credit card, your credit union is lending you money, which you’ll need to pay back along with interest. A debit card takes funds directly from your account similar to the way that checks do – only quicker. Some processing terminals will require a PIN and some will require signature.

Both credit and debit cards are convenient, quick and easy. They’re also safer than cash, because cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Which one should you use? The answer depends largely upon your lifestyle.

1.) Budgeting

Credit cards allow you to buy now and pay later. Unfortunately, this can turn into a nightmare because of the obvious financial pitfalls in being able to purchase things you don’t have the money for now. If you think you’ll be tempted to overspend, regular credit card use may not be ideal for you.

However, it’s nearly impossible to incur thousands of dollars of debt through debit card usage. Most credit unions will cover purchases that put your account into the red, but only up to a few hundred dollars. If this happens, you’re accountable for your purchases and charged an overdraft fee.

2.) Safety

The convenience of debit cards can make fraud more likely. Unless reported promptly, debit card theft or fraud can quickly drain your account. Credit card companies are held to strict liability laws: Consumer liability for credit card fraud is limited to $50. If you report suspicious charges in a written request within 60 days, the company is obligated to investigate and restore the funds to your account if the charges are determined to be fraudulent.

For debit card fraud, your liability is $50 if you notify the credit union within two days of seeing the fraudulent charges. After two days, your liability increases to $500. If you report the activity 60 days or more after it happened, you may be liable for all of it. Although many credit unions have implemented voluntary plans to limit customer liability to $50, there is no federal law requiring them to do so.

In addition to stricter liability laws, credit cards offer consumer protection on purchases. You can always cancel a charge if you are the victim of an online scam or bought something that was never delivered or wasn’t what you expected. This makes credit cards the ideal choice for large or fragile purchases that will be delivered to your home for additional insurance on the purchase.

3.) Rewards

One major draw for credit cards is the points awarded for purchases. That’s a strong advantage over debit cards. The ability to earn airline miles and the lure of a possibly free flight are attractive to many consumers. Of course, you may be paying for those miles with a high interest rate or an annual fee.

Don’t get hooked on the points. Research each card carefully to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.

4.) Credit History

Another important benefit to using a credit card is establishing or restoring a positive credit history. Debit card usage may encourage responsible spending, but a major factor in measuring your credit score is your credit card usage. Occasionally using a credit card and paying your bill on time can really improve your credit rating. This, in turn, improves the likelihood of earning favorable terms for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and more.

5.) Annual Fees and Interest

A strong disadvantage of credit cards is the money you spend to keep them. Some cards charge an annual fee, and the interest on your credit card bill can easily be a third of your payment or more. If you’ve overspent one month and are unable to cover the entire amount due, you may need to pay only the minimum payment. More of your payment will soon be going toward interest than toward lowering your bill. This makes the next payment higher, and again you’ll be paying a significant portion toward interest. This is often how credit card debt spirals. Interest becomes a huge hurdle, making it nearly impossible for the consumer to make headway.

If you don’t think you will be able to pay your bills in a timely manner, keep credit card usage to a minimum.

As a UCCU member, you already have access to fantastic rates and optimal security. To find out which debit or credit card is best for you, call, click or stop by today!

Your Turn: In what situations do you prefer to use a debit card or a credit card? Why do you choose one over the other? Share your thoughts with us!

Sources:

Share Button

6 Ways to Identify Charity Scams

Did you know that Americans donate a collective $373 billion to charity every year?

Generosity makes the world go round. Whether it’s helping out an established organization like the Red Cross or donating to a smaller charity through crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, charity is wonderful.

Except when it’s not. Because, sad as it may be, there are hundreds of crooks who hide behind the security of a charitable organization to rob victims of their money. These scammers impersonate well-known charities or create a bogus one, then solicit funds and pocket the cash.

Most recently, scammers have used the Make-A-Wish Foundation name as cover for luring victims into losing huge sums of money. This incredible organization is dedicated to granting the most longed-forwish of each terminally ill child. They can make anything happen, from a Disney trip to a baseball that’s autographed and personally delivered by Kris Bryant.

Sadly, scammers are now abusing the Make-A-Wish Foundation name and our desire to do good to con people out of their money.

Here’s how it works.

The scammer calls the victim and announces that they’ve won hundreds of thousands of dollars in an alleged sweepstakes conducted by Make-A-Wish. The caller claims to be a government representative of the FTC or another federal institution. The “government official” then explains that the “winner” must pay thousands of dollars for taxes and insurance before they can lay hands on their winnings. To make the call seem authentic, it often bears a 202 area code – that of Washington, D.C., which is the headquarters for the FTC and most federal agencies.

Of course, there is no sweepstakes and the caller is no government official.

In fact, on the Make-A-Wish website, the organization clearly asserts that it does not conduct sweepstakes, ever. If you fall for the scam and wire your money over or share your personal financial information, you’ll never hear from the caller or your money again.

There are several red flags here that should alert you to the fraudulence of this call.

First, the FTC has more important things to do than hand out sweepstakes prizes. Second, you should never have to pay money to claim a prize. And third, no legitimate organization will ask for such large amounts of money to be paid over the phone.

If you’ve been contacted, do your due diligence to stop those crooks from preying on other victims. Report the scam immediately at FTC.gov. Next, let Make-A-Wish know. You can notify them through their website, at FraudAlerts@wish.org. Do your part to prevent these scams from succeeding.

Unfortunately, this latest scam is not the first to use a charity for cover, and it certainly won’t be the last.

If you love giving to charity and helping those who are less fortunate, you may be feeling doubtful now. Going forward, how can you possibly know when a charity that’s soliciting funds is a genuine appeal and when it’s a scam?

As always, UCCU is here to keep you and your money safe. Here’s how to verify that you’re donating to legitimate charities:

1.) Don’t donate over the phone

In general, it’s best not to donate over the phone. It’s difficult to determine authenticity, and up to 95 cents of every donated dollar can go to the telemarketer who just interupted your dinner.

2.) Be wary of sob stories

Tear-jerker tales may get us to part with our money, but a legitimate group will not rely on sob stories to solicit funds. When an organization is preying on your heart strings to the point of discomfort, you may be falling for a scam.

3.) Donate with caution after catastrophe

Natural disasters bring out the kindness and generosity in people. They also bring out the crooks. Well before Hurricane Katrina even struck land, the FBI uncovered 4,000 websites with the storm’s name in their titles, most of which were run by criminals who lived overseas.

When disaster strikes, though, you do want to help – and you still can. Just make sure your money is going to larger organizations and names you recognize. Don’t wait for them to reach out to you. Donate through the charity’s website or by calling them yourself. This way, you’ll know you’ve reached the right party.

4.) Know the charity 

When choosing a charity, do some research. Find out what the charity stands for and about the programs and fund-raising campaigns they run. This way, when someone calls impersonating this organization while collecting for a cause you know they don’t support, you’ll recognize the scam. If all the victims of the Make-A-Wish scam knew that the foundation does not conduct sweepstakes, the scam would never get off the ground.

5.) Read the reviews

Aside from checking out the charity’s official website, you’ll want to read some third-party reviews. You can check for a charity’s legitimacy on objective review sites like CharityNavigator and CharityWatch.

6.) Ask for info

You’ll sometimes be asked for donations over the phone, and the caller will sound genuine and sincere. You’ll be tempted to give money, but first, verify that the solicitor is indeed representing a charity. Ask for details. What is the organization’s mission? How will this money be used? Will you receive a receipt for tax purposes? If the caller isn’t forthcoming or confident with their answers, hang up!

7.) Give safely

As always, never wire money to an unverified recipient. It’s like paying with cash – there’s no way to get it back. Similarly, only provide sensitive information if you’re absolutely certain the caller is genuine. As mentioned, if you’re in doubt, contact the organization on your own to donate funds.

Donating to charity is a beautiful thing. Don’t let a bunch of fraudsters ruin it for you or the beneficiaries of your compassion. Learn how to recognize charity scams so you can continue giving with a full heart. In the end, go with your gut. If something feels off, it’s better to save that money for another charity later on.

Your Turn: Have you ever been duped by a fake charity? Or come close to it? Share your experience in the comments so we can learn from it.

SOURCES:

Share Button